The Eyre Affair
London, Hodder, 2001, 373p
This novel is a diamond. It is clever, original and funny. Jasper Fforde's world, where literature is at the peak of popular culture, is irresistible.
The Eyre Affiar is every book-lovers heaven. Fforde has created a world we all want to live in: where books and authors are the centre of society; where museums are bursting with visitors; and where there is even a crime department dedicated to investigating literary mysteries.
Thursday Next, Fforde's main character, is one of these investigators, set opposite the most incredible archetypal villian in Acheron Hades, who claims to be evil just for the sake of being evil. The novel begins with the theft of the manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit and the creation of a machine that opens a portal into the world inside any novel - the Prose Portal. The line between fiction and reality is blurred, as people are able to step in and out of literary classics, and with the potential to alter the course of the plot.
Fforde's universe is a sort-of alternate reality, where The Crimean War continues to be fought, and Winston Churchill is not a household name, as died from falling out of a tree as a young boy. Central to The Eyre Affair is - yes, you guessed it - Jane Eyre. You need at least some knowledge of the plot of Bronte's classic in order to understand the plot of Fforde's novel. In Thursday Next's world, Jane Eyre is one of the most popular characters in fiction; yet the plot is not what we know it to be. In Fforde's world, Jane Eyre does not return to marry Rochester at the end of the novel, but she chooses to stay with her cousins, the Rivers. But due to the presence of the Prose Portal, alteration seems inevitable.
I would not hesitate in recommending this novel to anyone. Fforde is a genius - knowledgeable, creative and brave. He has embarked upon an incredible mission - to create an ideal world for book-lovers everywhere. And he has succeeded. Now I need more!